While going through some old items around the house, my son found a label maker. Once he figured out what the object did, he was delighted to stop helping and make labels for everyone in the house. He started with me, “Best Mom Ever”. As I tried to reign him back to the task at hand, the notes became sillier and more sarcastic. The other day I saw a label on his brother’s cell phone case, “I like toes”. Needless to say, the creative labeling took the place of anything productive.
Each time I look at my wallet and see “Best Mom Ever”, I am reminded that some labels feel great to wear! But “labeling” has become such a negative sounding word that many people are frightened to say anything about anyone for fear of possibly offending them. Does labeling have to be critical? Can’t we reverse our internal label makers to be a good thing?
Imagine a planet (Planet Perfect) where everyone owned the do-dad that my son found…a label maker. The label makers could only be used to make people feel good so people took time each day to apply all their labels before going out of the house. Their clothes would be covered with labels given by others like “kind, capable, great friend, patient, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, hardworking, etc. Kids would proudly boast at dinner, “I got labeled today!”.
But we live on planet earth where labels are often intended to hurt and isolate. Sadly, the people doing the labeling here are nothing like the citizens of Planet Perfect. Their goal is to shape an individual’s image of themselves as not good enough. When the individual believes it, then other people begin to believe it as well. Perhaps all the campaigns to “stop labeling” have been a bit misdirected. Labeling can shape a person’s image in a positive light too, then when the individual believes it, other people will too!
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23. Who can argue with these labels? If you need a short list of labels to start positive labeling…here it is. By speaking these things over people, we have the power to change how they look at themselves as well as how they are perceived by other people. It also means the one doing the labeling may need to look a little longer at some people.
In our humanity we are very quick to pull out our label makers and make a snap judgement about someone. But if we look closer, we can find a reason for a positive label. Take another look, be patient and exercise self-control; when you are faithful to look beyond what the majority of planet earth does, your label maker will look more like Planet Perfect. Speaking wonderful labels over people is part of exercising our spiritual authority. Anyone can pay a compliment, but believers we are called to speak words of life over those around us. Those words can mean the difference in life and death. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” Proverbs 18:21. Look at those around you…what are the consequences of your words?